Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak in West Virginia’

Manchin Trying to Force Amtrak to Return Agents

June 8, 2018

A West Virginia senator wants federal law to require that every state served by Amtrak have at least one station agent.

Joe Manchin of West Virginia amended a pending fiscal year 2019 transportation appropriations bill to include the requirement after his state lost its last Amtrak ticket agent.

Amtrak closed the ticket office in Charleston, West Virginia, on June 8.

Manchin’s amendment also requires Amtrak to justify its decision to increase prices for special and charter trains, and to stop accepting private passenger cars in Huntington, West Virginia.

In a statement, Manchin said removing the agent at the Charleston station will make it harder for Amtrak to attract new customers and retain the ones it already has.

“Amtrak has told me that most of their sales are now online, but West Virginians buy far more tickets at the Charleston station than most places around the country. That’s not surprising, as nearly 30 percent of West Virginia is without internet access, and mobile broadband access is also difficult in my state’s rugged, mountainous terrain, making online ticket sales difficult,” he said.

Charleston is served by the Amtrak’s tri-weekly Chicago-Washington Cardinal.

W.Va. Officials Optimistic About Saving New River Train

April 25, 2018

West Virginia officials say they had a productive meeting with Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson about continuing the annual New River Train and expressed optimism that a deal will be worked out.

In a news release, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin said the service has had a stellar record with no operational issues or citations

“I made sure that Amtrak knew the impact this would have on our economy and local non-profit,” Manchin said in the release. “Richard Anderson and I both agree that we need to find a solution and I received a commitment from him that they are committed to continuing their partnership with Collis P. Huntington and finding a solution that both sides are happy with.”

Echoing that was Rep. Even Jenkins who said the meeting has moved the New River Train one step closer to operating.

“There are still some issues that remain to be resolved, but every single person in the room wants to keep the New River Train running,” he said in a news release. “I will continue to work to ensure the New River Train runs for a 52nd year this fall and am encouraged by the results of today’s discussion.”

The New River Train has operated for 51 years, most recently between Huntington and Hinton.

It continued existence has been threatened by a new Amtrak policy that bans most special and charter movements.

Of late, Amtrak has expressed some willingness to allow a limited number of specials that use routes covered by scheduled Amtrak trains.

In the case of the New River Train, it uses CSX tracks also used by Amtrak’s Cardinal.

West Virginia interests have said the New River Train generates $5 million in tourism dollars.

Jenkins said that Anderson understands that the New River Train has a 50-year history and economic impact that distinguishes it from other charter trains.

Amtrak, W.Va. Officials to Talk About New River Train

April 16, 2018

Amtrak executives will meet on Tuesday with public officials from West Virginia to discuss the future of the New River Train, which operates annually in the fall between Huntington and Hinton.

The train, which has operated for the past 51 years, was reportedly in danger of being canceled after Amtrak said last month that it would no longer operate specials and charters.

The passenger carrier has also been restricting the use of its trains by privately-owned rail cars although a formal policy in that regard has yet to be announced.

Last week some West Virginia officials indicated that Amtrak had said it would make an exception to its policy to enable the New River Train to continue operating.

There has been discussion that Amtrak might be amendable to allow select specials on routes over which it runs regularly scheduled trains.

The New River Train uses the route of the tri-weekly Chicago-Washington Cardinal.

The train, sponsored by the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society, has been touted for its economic impact, which has been put at $5 million.

West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin asked Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson for a meeting to discuss the future of the New River Train.

“I will continue doing everything I can to fix this problem,” Manchin said in a news release.

Martinsburg to get Improved Station Facilities

January 2, 2018

Amtrak is planning upgrades to its station in Martinsburg, West Virginia, including a new boarding platform and better access for disabled Amtrak passengers

Construction of the new 12-foot wide concrete platform, along with signage, lighting, and a wheelchair-lift enclosure could begin this spring and take 16 months to complete.

The changes will be reviewed on Jan. 8 by the Martinsburg Historic Preservation Review Commission.

A site-plan review by the Martinsburg Planning Commission is expected to be conducted in February.

The review is needed because the work will occur near the historic Baltimore & Ohio roundhouse in Martinsburg.

The platform will be built on the east side of tracks owned by CSX. It will be 440 feet in length and sit 8 inches above the rails. An existing existing asphalt center platform will be removed and new fencing installed.

Martinsburg is served by Amtrak’s Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited.

Cardinal Ridership Up 7.25% in FY2017

November 21, 2017

Amtrak’s Cardinal saw a 7.25 percent ridership boost in fiscal year 2017.

Figures released by the national passenger carrier show the tri-weekly Chicago-New York train carried 112,432 passengers, up 7,601 from FY 2016.

“It’s been inching up, but to have that kind of an increase is a good thing,” said Chuck Riecks, a vice president with the national Rail Passengers Association and co-chairman of West Virginia-based the Friends of the Cardinal group.

Riecks described the ridership figures as encouraging given the on-time issues Nos. 50 and 51 have had during this year’s operational problems on host railroad CSX.

He said Amtrak’s addition of business class service to the Cardinal in January 2016 helped to boost patronage.

The Cardinal serves eight stations in West Virginia and most of them saw an increase in ridership.

White Sulphur Springs handled 5,878 passengers, a 12.6 percent increase. The station serves passengers headed for the famous Greenbrier resort and was a beneficiary of the business class service, which features 18 leather seats, complimentary beverages and a lounge area reserved for business class and sleeper car passengers.

Thurmond — the smallest town in America with regularly scheduled passenger rail service — saw the largest proportional jump, an 18 percent increase to 345 passengers.

Other stations posting slight increases included Charleston (9,812 passengers), Prince (2,988) and Alderson (449).

The ridership figures for Huntington and Hinton fell in FY 2017, in part because Amtrak had attributed to those stations passengers riding Amtrak coaches on the New River Train.

That added about 2,800 passengers each year to each city’s ridership figures.

Hinton’s Cardinal ridership in FY 2017 dropped by 81 passengers from 7,344 to 4,463.

Huntington’s ridership fell by 14.5 percent from 10,723 to 6,925 passengers, or a decline of 998 passengers.

During the past year Amtrak removed its ticket agents from Huntington, thus ending ticket sales and checked baggage at that station.

“That clearly reflects the loss of the station agent,” Riecks said of the decline in Huntington passengers.

Montgomery also saw a decline in ridership, dropping from 669 to 500 passengers.

In the Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited route, the two West Virginia stations posted ridership gains.

Martinsburg handled 11,267 passengers, up 146, while Harpers Ferry saw a 12 percent increase in passengers to 8,267.

W.Va. Senate Passes Daily Cardinal Legislation

April 7, 2017

A bill that seeks to promote daily operation of Amtrak’s Chicago-New York Cardinal is poised to pass the West Virginia legislature and be sent to Gov. Jim Justice.

The Senate approved the legislation on a 32-1 vote this week without discussion.

HB 2856 had been approved on March 22 on a 95-5 vote by the House of Delegates.

The House must concur in a title amendment to the bill before it reaches the governor’s desk.

The bill has the support of the Justice administration. “I couldn’t be more solidly behind it. It’s integral to tourism to have that train operating daily,” said Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher said of the legislation, which does not appropriate any funding for operating expenses of the now tri-weekly train.

Instead, it authorizes the state Tourism commissioner to enter into compact agreements with other states served by the Cardinal, and with Amtrak to improve the quality and frequency of Cardinal service.

The commissioner will be allowed to establish a special revenue account in which funds could be deposited to promote daily Cardinal service.

The Cardinal passes through West Virginia in both directions on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays, serving Huntington, Charleston, Hinton, White Sulphur Springs and Prince.

W.Va. Legislature Moves Toward Daily Cardinal

March 24, 2017

One half of the West Virginia legislature is supporting legislation that would permit the state tourism commissioner to work with Amtrak and other states to make the Chicago-New York Cardinal a daily operation.

The House of Delegates approved the bill on a 95-5 vote and it now goes to the Senate for consideration.

The bill would establish a special revenue account that could be used by the state to help fund the outreach effort, but it does not appropriate any funding to help pay the operating costs of the Cardinal.

The Cardinal currently operates tri-weekly, passing through West Virginia westbound on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday, and eastbound on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday.

Boy Scouts Urge Daily Operation of The Cardinal During 2017, 2019 Jamborees in West Virginia

December 21, 2016

Boy Scouts of America is urging Amtrak President Charles “Wick” Moorman to operate the Cardinal daily during July 2017 when the Scouts will hold their National Jamboree at Mount Hope, West Virginia.

amtrak-cardinalThe Summit Bechtel Reserve at Mount Hope will also be the site of the World Scout Jamboree in 2019 and the Scouts would like to see daily service during that event, too.

The jamboree location is within the 70,000-acre New River Gorge National River recreation area. The Chicago-New York Cardinal operates tri-weekly.

The Boy Scouts became aware of the movement to urge Amtrak to operate the Cardinal on a daily basis during a conference held in September in Cincinnati.

“I hope Amtrak will consider the opportunity to take advantage of the Jamboree window to operate daily service on the Cardinal and to work with local tourism representatives to maximize this unique opportunity,” BSA Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh wrote in a letter to Amtrak. “I know I speak for all when I say that enhanced service would be a welcome addition offering the possibility of increased ridership and visitors to the New River Gorge.”

All Aboard Ohio, a rail passenger advocacy group, said that Amtrak cannot legally expand service that increases its operating losses without identifying funding to offset it.

AAO noted that Amtrak has estimated that it has enough equipment to operate the Cardinal as often as five days a week.

The equipment pool available to expand operations of the Cardinal to seven days a week may be sufficient by next summer due to Amtrak taking delivery of new Viewliner cars being built by CAF USA.

Support for Daily Cardinal Builds in W.Va.

November 29, 2016

Support for daily service by Amtrak’s Chicago-New York Cardinal is building in West Virginia, but supporters know that it remains long way off.

Amtrak CardinalAmong those recently supporting increasing the frequency of service of the tri-weekly train is the mayor of Charleston, Danny Jones.

Jones describes himself as train travel enthusiast who travels via Amtrak several times a year.

“It would bring more people through or more visitors if it were seven days a week,” Jones said. “However, “It would still lose money.”

Shortly after a conference was held in Cincinnati this past September to discuss a daily Cardinal, the West Virginia Governor’s Conference on Tourism unanimously passed a motion in favor of daily Cardinal service.

The Cincinnati conference was sponsored by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce.

In the meantime, Mayor Jones is fighting to retain the Amtrak agent at the Charleston depot, which is wedged between MacCorkle Avenue and the CSX railroad tracks.

Jones said some improvements have been made to the stop, including the installation of benches outside and some signs and landscaping around the station.

Amtrak Workers Collect West Virginia Aid

July 28, 2016

Amtrak employees recently collected donations that were distributed to areas of West Virginia that were hard hit by flooding in late June.

Amtrak logoThe back-to-school supplies and other materials were placed in a baggage car of Amtrak’s New York to Chicago Cardinal and transported to White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, for distribution.

The donations were collected at stations and Amtrak facilities in eight cities.

Amtrak worked with the American Red Cross, community organization Neighbors Loving Neighbors, and the West Virginia National Guard to coordinate the donations.